Jamaica is a violent place


May 06, 2016
Contributed Persons gather as police search for the murdered US missionaries in Albion Mountain, St Mary, earlier this week.
Jermaine Barnaby/Freelance Photographer Paulette Williams speaking on Monday about work done on her house in Huddersfield, St Mary, by Harold Nichols, a United States missionary who was murdered on the weekend.

There has been a lot of debate this week over comments made by CNN anchor Ashleigh Banfield who described Jamaica as an extremely violent country.

The comments were made in the wake of the disturbing news that two missionaries working here in Jamaica were found dead in the parish of St Mary, where they were building homes and helping the less fortunate.

Those comments spurred a lot of negative feedback from Jamaicans. I will admit, though, some of the negative backlash to Banfield's comments are justified. I find that media in the USA and in European countries are quick to paint citizens of developing countries as savages when they are guilty of the same things in their countries.

Take, for example, the number of mass killings in the USA over the past few years. It has been absolutely ridiculous. Remember the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that occurred on December 14, 2012, in Newtown, Connecticut?

Adam Lanza, a young man of 20, fatally shot 20 children between ages six and seven years old. Six adults were also massacred in the mayhem. During the coverage in US media, I can't recall once where they described the US as an 'extremely violent country'.

When Timothy McVeigh brought down an entire building and killed over 160 people, I never heard anyone in Europe or anywhere else describe the US as an 'extremely violent country'. So there is something disingenuous about describing Jamaica as an extremely violent country just because two missionaries were murdered here.

That being said, there is something to be said about us Jamaicans and the hard time we have facing reality because in truth, we are extremely violent.

multiple killings

As a country, we have averaged more than 1,000 murders a year for almost two decades. Violent crimes have become a way of life for many of us. We have become so immune to news of murder, most of us only react when there are multiple killings.

Just this week, Dominique Parnell, a bartender, was abducted from a dance in Halse Hall, Clarendon, raped and killed and there was little reaction. Last week, a man killed his three-year-old child, same thing. A policeman was shot dead at a dance after reportedly pulling a gun, unprovoked, on a licensed firearm holder. The weather probably attracted more attention.

For the past decade, we have been among the countries with the highest crime rate in the world. Every single week there is a report of someone dying violently in circumstances that ordinarily in other countries would have been easily diffused.

Meanwhile, thousands of kids are sexually abused each year, and a recent study has shown that 40 per cent of Jamaicans polled have said their first sexual experience was coerced.

These are all signs that we are an extremely violent country, especially when compared to other countries in the region and other countries of similar size.

One of the reasons we have a hard time making progress in this country is that we don't accept criticism - objective or otherwise. We are not willing to accept that we have flaws that we need to work on. If we would only learn to admit to our flaws and work on trying to improve, we would be so much better.

We always have to be the 'bad man' in everything. This is why Ashley Banfield and others looking on from outside see us as being extremely violent.

We need to embrace the truth and work to fix it so people won't have these things to say about us.

Perception is everything, they say. And perception about us right now, is everything bad.

Send comments to levyl1@hotmail.com.

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